Jonathan Asake, is the new President of Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union (SOKAPU) and in this interview, he accused the state government of promoting ethnic cleansing agenda against his people.
He told TheSun that several of their communities have been overrun by armed invaders who have killed more than 400 people between January and July in the area.
“Figures so far indicate that over 104 communities in four local governments, namely; Kajuru, Chukun, Kaura and Zango Kataf, have been displaced. We are still compiling the number of the deaths in these locations. The figure we got as at two weeks ago indicated that over 400 were killed between January and July. Some communities have not sent in their own details. So, we will come up with the exact figures as soon as possible. For instance, in Chukun local government, 38 schools have not had a teacher for years. Most of them have been closed down”, he stated. He spoke with FRED EZE and expressed their readiness to drag Governor Nasir El-Rufai to the United Nations to answer genocide charges.
What is the security situation now in Southern Kaduna particularly the killings?
Well, it’s not about the killings anymore because the killing has always been going on, silently or otherwise. It subsides in some areas and continues shortly after that, maybe in a different community. For the long time that this evil act has been going on, nobody has been prosecuted, and that had encouraged the perpetrators to freely continue their devilish acts. More so, they seem to be having the strong support and backing from the state authorities.
What do you mean by ‘having the support of the authorities?’
It’s obvious they enjoy backing from the state government. The utterances and actions of the state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, indicate that he’s backing them, openly or otherwise. He justifies every attack; blames the communities and their leaders for it. He neither condemns, sympathizes nor visits the affected people to assess the level of destruction. His body language, obviously, indicates that the aggressors enjoy his cover. Fulani aggressors in Southern Kaduna communities move with AK47 rifles and other weapons openly and nobody dares to challenge them. They take pleasure in unleashing terror on our people. Many of our people have been displaced for years now. Every local government has its own peculiarity. For instance, in Kaura local government, Zangan district in Atakar chiefdom has nine communities and these attackers have chased them all out in the past three years. Several other communities in different local governments have suffered same fate. In all these, the governor is yet to recognize that these people are now IDPs in their own ancestral land, not to talk of taking relief materials to them.
The governor said he doesn’t need to visit there himself, that his aides do that more often
That contradicts what he is doing. He seems to have become the spokesman of the Fulani attackers, providing regular update on why the people are being attacked by the herders. In his recent interview on Channels Television, he accused the elites of Southern Kaduna of being behind the killings so that they can get noticed by the government and collect ‘brown envelopes’ afterwards. That’s untrue and insult on the sensibility of our community leaders.
In the interview you made reference to, the governor said that attacks increased recently because he stopped paying the elites of southern Kaduna the usual thing they used to get. What’s your reaction to that allegation?
Sometimes, the governor speaks from both sides of his mouth. He often speaks as if he is not ‘normal’ and we are seriously concerned about that. Initially, he claimed to know the people attacking communities, that they are Fulani people from other countries who suffered losses in 2011 post presidential election violence. He told the world that he traced them to their various countries with undisclosed financial compensation to avert reprisals. Yet, the killings have not stopped. He also told the world that he has spent N16 billion to keep Kaduna safe, yet, invaders keep killing people mercilessly. He changed the narrative recently when he claimed that Fulani people are not the ones killing the people, attributing the recent rise in violent attacks and destruction of communities to reprisal attacks. Howbeit, we challenge him to name the elites who he alleged are behind the unending killings in Southern Kaduna and the reason that they support the killings. He needs to prove to us why he made that allegation. He’s always quick to call our people bigots, and he has been selling the false information that our people don’t like other tribes and religion, but that is untrue and cheap blackmail.
You mean the governor of Kaduna state is unstable?
Obviously, going by the way he has been speaking recently. We are going to find out if he’s okay. His recent actions and statements confirm the outcome of the investigation of the Senate committee on FCT that probed his tenure as FCT Minister some years ago. The Committee headed by Senator Abubakar Sodangi came to the conclusion that Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is unfit for public office. Unfortunately, some Nigerians have short memories, and that affected the people of Kaduna state. Someone who was adjudged as unfit for public office became governor of a state that is full of diversity. The Senate Committee has been proven right because the governor has shown that he is incapable of managing this diversity. Kaduna state is like a mini Nigeria where we have people of diverse ethnicity, religion and culture. And that is the reason for the crisis.
Were you part of the delegation of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) that visited the governor on Monday?
No! I was not and cannot join in the visit. I am the SOKAPU President and the governor himself has vowed not to give us audience. In fact, he has sworn not to allow us close to him for any reason even if the attackers will kill the last person in Southern Kaduna.
Do you think anything good will come of the visit by CAN delegation?
Absolutely nothing good will come out of it, and you see it. The El-Rufai I know has no respect for anybody, be it religious leaders, community leaders or whatever social status you have. He will only play deceit and nothing more. All those people that are going there don’t know the mindset of the govenor. He is working on an agenda and he is determined not to stop. He does not care about the Christian leaders. He is someone that can insult the sensibility of the respected community, Christian, political leaders and even go as far as insulting Our Lord Jesus Christ. He takes everybody for granted.
SOKAPU is the umbrella body of southern Kaduna people. The Union enjoys the loyalty, respect and trust of the people. Why is the governor not taking advantage of that?
It’s because of his over blown ego. Secondly, he is working on agenda that is in line with the Fulani killers. Their sole aim is to take over the communities they invade. That’s why they have displaced many communities. We are compiling the number of communities that have been displaced. Figures so far indicate that over 104 communities in four local governments, namely; Kajuru, Chukun, Kaura and Zango Kataf, have been displaced. We are still compiling the number of the deaths in these locations. The figure we got as at two weeks ago indicated that over 400 were killed between January and July. Some communities have not sent in their own details. So, we will come up with the exact figures as soon as possible. For instance, in Chukun local government, 38 schools have not had a teacher for years. Most of them have been closed down. We are also compiling the number of churches that have been destroyed over the past few years.
Is the state government aware of these details?
Yes! That was why we visited the affected communities to get these details. We gave data to the govenor when he challenged our traditional rulers to come forth with the information. He said that our people have been claiming that communities have been destroyed and people displaced. He recently challenged our Chiefs to come forward with the information, but none could do that because of the past experience. Two years ago, one of their colleagues was kidnapped and killed after ransom was paid. Nothing was done about it and up till now, the govenor has not appointed his replacement after two years. So none of them will like to fall into that trap. However, we are compiling this information to show the world that the governor has agenda with the Fulani people to take over our communities. For instance, in Chukun local government, there were 13 districts but the governor has reduced them to two. He installed a Fulani man that has no root in the place as their leader. The district has written that they want Emirate and he is working to give them emirate. Same goes for Zango Kataf, Kajuru, Kauru, Kagarko and other locations. That’s how he wants to degrade our Chiefs and impose Emirate on them.
How many ethnic nationalities are in southern Kaduna?
We have 64 ethnic nationalities that make up southern Kaduna. And this is in addition to other tribes including Igbo, Yoruba, Ibibio and several other tribes that have lived there peacefully for decades. It’s only these Fulani invaders that come to kill, destroy and displace the indigenous communities and government will describe it as ethno-religious crisis.
The governor had said that a piece of land is in contention between the southern Kaduna people and the Fulani. How true is that statement?
That’s completely untrue. There’s no land in contention anywhere. The governor knows that he comes from a particular place that he claims indigeneship. It’s only when it comes to southern Kaduna that he wants land to be free for all. Some Igbo, Yoruba people have lived in Kano, Sokoto and other parts of northern Nigeria for decades and they never claimed to be indigenes. No southern Kaduna person will go and claim indigeneship in Kano, Sokoto or elsewhere outside southern Kaduna.
Are you considering reporting the matter to the United Nations?
Certainly! That’s the beauty of the world we are living in now. It’s no longer in the dark days that people will commit genocide or other atrocities and go scot-free. The world is watching what is happening in southern Kaduna and they know the agenda of the governor. The governor openly told the international election observers during the 2019 elections that they would return in ‘body bags’ if they misrepresent the 2019 election.
Any move from your end to demand for the creation of southern Kaduna state?
That has been a long time demand of the southern Kaduna people. If there are any people that require a state, it’s the southern Kaduna people. But we know that constitutional bottleneck has made it a bit difficult to achieve now. For the records, out of 46,000 Sq. km of the size of Kaduna state, 26, 000 is southern Kaduna. It means that southern Kaduna is bigger than Kano in terms of landmass. Out of the population of 8.2 million people in Kaduna state, Southern Kaduna has 4.2 million (51%). We are not restricted to Kaduna south Senatorial district, which is just eight local governments. Southern Kaduna has 12 out of 23 local governments in Kaduna state. Southern Kaduna is bigger than 16 states in Nigeria. It’s a vast area with huge population.
Is southern Kaduna truly marginalized in terms of infrastructures, political appointments and other benefits?
The answer to the question is there for all to see. The governor lied on television that there are projects in every local government in Southern Kaduna. That’s completely untrue. He truly located primary schools in the area but in areas where the Hausa/Fulani communities are in our midst. It’s same case in Jamma’a, Kachia, Kasuwa magani. The longest road project he claimed to have in Southern Kaduna is in Laduga. That is where the Fulani people across the country are gathering now. They forcefully took the land from the natives and gave it to Fulani people. It was 34 hectares but the governor increased it to 74 hectares. No compensation was given to the natives. The road project is a dual carriage and a bridge linking three local governments obviously done for the benefit of the Fulani people in the Laduga.
What is the way out of this crisis?
It’s for the governor to do what he is supposed to be. Stop the attack and give justice to all. On our side, we have done what we are supposed to do but the state government is obviously not ready to bring an end to the crisis. There appears to be a conspiracy between the Federal Government and the state government against the people of Southern Kaduna. All these things have been happening because of the weak institutions we have in Nigeria. If votes are counted during elections, credible people would have been emerging as political leaders and not what we have today.